Opinion: Immense Eric Bailly has shown worth in April

Talk of Eric Bailly's £30m price tag has been rare. Paul Pogba's transfer, the one that dwarfed that fee by three times, has taken up most of the chatter, but nevertheless, Bailly has proved himself, and so few discuss the Ivorian's summer move.

It was, let us not forget, a big risk buying Eric Bailly. A 22-year-old centre-back from La Liga, he has settled quickly and well, as few defensive players from Spain do so. José Mourinho's risk has paid off, handsomely too.

Bailly has been immense. Physical, quick, technically excellent, composed. The odd ill-disciplined late challenge has poked its way through. But if that weakness is the weeds of the garden, the blossoming flowers vastly outnumber the weeds.

Like a flower, Bailly has come into full bloom in spring. The now 23-year-old has played all eight of Man United's April fixtures. And, in the space of seven days, played 300 minutes of football - the equivalent of three matches plus an extra half-hour.

Throughout all three games in the last week, in a long and tough second leg victory against Anderlecht, a 2-0 triumph over Burnley and Thursday's backs-to-the-wall performance against Manchester City, Bailly has been at the height of his concentration. His focus has not flickered. That is enough on its own to be impressive.

Bailly was vital against City

But impressive too is the quality with which the ex-Villarreal man has played with. A tackle on Leroy Sané in his own penalty area, clean, crisp and powerful, was replayed many a time by United's supporters and the club's social media. Of course, those kind of tackles are both satisfying and vital. More beneficial to United, though, was that Bailly was calm under City's virtually relentless pressure. His teammates? Less so.

Bailly, much like Michael Carrick, does not think about time. The "hot potato, get rid" theory shouted at young players across England does not apply. He scans his options and lets Carrick take responsibility, or strides into midfield, or splays it out wide for Antonio Valencia. Occasionally, he hoofs it clear with power too. That's the sign of a good defender. Rio Ferdinand was a fine passer of the ball, but, like Bailly, he understood when the moment called for a strong clearance.

Mourinho's purchase of Bailly, a surprise at the time, has been successful. Apart from a two-month absence through injury and the Africa Cup of Nations in January, Bailly has been ever-present, consistent and quality.

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